Back Wines That Reliably Deliver

Published on 11 June, 2021

©Linden Wilkie, 11 June 2021

Sometimes the sort of evening we have in mind allows us to simply take a punt. Thirty year old wine from an off vintage from an obscure satellite wine region? In the right wine group, pull this one off and you have some kudos. Undrinkable? Just move on…

But sometimes knowing you have a bottle in your hand that will work, from a combination of region, producer and vineyard that you can have real confidence in is just what you need. The evening needs to go smoothly, and the wine just needs to deliver. What then?

Here are three combinations that really work for me right now.

2002 Champagne
When this was the new vintage in town, we all fawned over it. Since then nearly all producers have moved on to much more recent vintages, and meanwhile this truly spectacular one has put on some more years in the cellar and is really coming into its own. Next year – take note – it will hit its 20th anniver sary, so I’d be surprised if prices stay where they are. Dom Pérignon is now onto its “P2” late-disgorged edition, which I tasted this week (thank you Alex!), and it is fantastic. We have the original release / earlier-disgorged available too, but the P2 is your banker here. So too Rare, the prestige cuvée from Piper Heidsieck. I have tried this multiple multiple times, it pleases a broad range of tastes, and always delivers. Krug and Cristal are also magnificent.

1999 Northern Rhône
I loved this vintage right from release in the early 2000s, but it is now in its apogee for drinking. What appealed to me back then holds true today – this is a fully ripe vintage that has a particular freshness quality to it making it a little more nuanced, and fragrant in an appetising way. J-L Chave’s Hermitage from this vintage is amongst my favourite ever Northern Rhône reds. The Côte-Rôtie ‘Blonde’ from Réne Rostaingput him well on the radar with Parker’s 100/100 rating. Try it alongside the other top-rated star of the year – E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie ‘La Turque’. We also have the best of Chapoutier’s Sélections Parcellaires from (H)Ermitage – ‘l’Ermite’ (mineral style) and ‘Le Pavillon’ (full style) on their way in 3-litre. Smart buying there.

1996 Médoc
This vintage was simply ideal for the late-ripening Cabernets of the northern Médoc, and now, at 25 years of age, they are in their perfect drinking window. My top go-to choices? – Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, Pichon-Lalande, Léoville-Las-Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Margaux, Palmer.

When you simply know you need to open something good, it's hard to beat these choices in my view.